Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2000)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2000.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2000

Scripps Institution scientist honored with Maurice Ewing Medal of the American Geophysical Union
Joseph L. Reid, professor emeritus of physical oceanography in the Marine Life Research Group at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, is being honored with the Maurice Ewing Medal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for his outstanding scientific contributions to ocean sciences.

Immune proteins play role in brain development and remodeling
Boston, MA--December 15, 2000--Two immune proteins found in the brains of mice help the brain develop and may play key roles in triggering developmental disorders like dyslexia and neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's Disease, according to a Harvard Medical School study reported in today's issue of Science.

Disabled elderly women receive less home care than men
Disabled elderly women living in the community receive about one-third fewer hours of informal home care than their male counterparts, and many disabled elderly married women serve as caregivers to their spouses, according to an article in the December 20 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Scientists identify molecular 'planner' that helps brain reorganize
Scientists have used a molecule to help re-wire the brain as an animal learns from new experiences, much like a highway planner alters a complicated road system working its way through a congested, bustling neighborhood.

Beliefs act as barriers to flu immunization
Certain individuals may avoid getting a flu shot because of beliefs they hold, such as concern about unknown ingredients in the vaccine, suggest the results of a small study of elderly low-income community residents.

FDA clears Berlex Laboratories' Mirena (R), new form of long-acting contraception meets need for U.S. women
U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved MIRENA (R)(levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system), a convenient, innovative contraceptive that is as effective in preventing pregnancy as tubal ligation (better than 99 percent) and lasts for five years or until removed. Two million women worldwide use MIRENA. Available for 10 years in Europe, MIRENA will be available in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2001.

In a hopeful sign, mercury levels decline in Everglades wading birds
In a rare piece of good news about mercury contamination in the Everglades, a University of Florida researcher has found that levels of the pollutant in wading birds have dropped significantly since 1994.

MRI-guided catheter ablation
Biomedical engineers at Johns Hopkins University have extended magnetic resonance imaging into cardiac surgery for the first time with a new procedure to help prevent rapid and irregular heart rates.

$3.13 million for Structural Genomics Research awarded to Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, University at Buffalo
The Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and the University at Buffalo have received grants totaling $3.13 million to develop new, high-speed methods to determine the molecular structure of proteins, which is essential for designing new drugs to treat, prevent and cure disease.

Scientists track phosphate to better understand global warming
Advanced technologies and methods are helping scientists take a new look at one of the Earth`s most abundant elements - phosphorus - to better understand how it cycles through soil, sea and living organisms. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all organisms including plants, which through photosynthesis remove carbon dioxide - the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming - from the atmosphere and bind it into organic matter.

Important sporting events can trigger heart attacks in men
Men are more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke on the day of important sporting events, probably because of increased stress, claim researchers from The Netherlands in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.

Math & science improvements still needed in middle school, repeat study shows
Results of the recent Third International Mathematics and Science Study Repeat (TIMSS-R), announced today by the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), confirms previous evidence that the U.S. needs to strengthen efforts in math and science education in middle school, say officials of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which cofunded the study.

British men favour beer and fast food diet
A beer and fast food diet is the one eaten by most men in Britain. Women prefer the

An internal cannabinoid-signaling system regulates human sperm, fertilization potential, study finds
A cellular signaling system that responds to THC, the active substance in marijuana, as well as to anandamide, a cannabinoid-like molecule normally produced in the body, may regulate sperm functions required for fertilization in humans, a study headed by scientists from the University at Buffalo has found.

Selegiline drug does not increase Parkinson's death rate
Researchers have debated for years whether the drug selegiline increases the risk of death for Parkinson's patients even though others have suggested that the drug may slow the progression of the disease. A new study shows that there is no increased death rate for patients who use the drug in combination with levodopa, the most common drug for Parkinson's. The study is published in the December 26 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Polyphenolic compound found in chocolate may protect against coronary disease
Polyphenolic compounds are widely distributed in fruits and vegetables and protect against coronary heart disease. Procyanidin, a biologically active polyphenolic compound, is found in chocolate. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Schramm et al.fed chocolate to a group of volunteers and noted changes in plasma concentrations suggesting that frequent consumption of procyanidins may provide cardioprotective effects by inhibiting platelet aggregation.

Mouse allergy contributes to inner-city asthma crisis
Parents who see mice scurrying across their floor should be worried about more than just an impending scream from their children. Mouse allergen, in the form of mouse urine or dander, is widely distributed in the inner city and may be a significant contributing factor to the childhood asthma epidemic in urban areas, according to two studies by Johns Hopkins researchers published in the December issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Aspirin use may increase pancreatic cancer risk
The many health benefits of regular aspirin use have been well-documented, and include the prevention of certain cancers, heart attacks and strokes, as well as dementia, Alzheimer's disease and cataracts. But a new study advises women that aspirin may not always be helpful. According to research presented today at the American Association for Cancer Research Second Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, extended regular use of aspirin may be associated with a significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer among women.

UK's ZeTek, ORNL technology Tennessee-bound
ZeTek Power Corp. will soon be using technology licensed from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and setting up shop in East Tennessee.

Scientists suspect new genetic risk factor for late onset Alzheimer's disease
Three new, separate research studies suggest that a gene or genes on chromosome 10 may be risk factors for late onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). The findings, reported in the December 22, 2000, issue of Science, are important new evidence that more than one gene may play a role in development of AD later in life.

Conference for physicians examines alternative medical therapies
The second annual conference on Alternative & Complementary Medical Therapies: What Works?

UI study investigates human emotion processing at the level of individual brain cells
A region at the front of the brain's right hemisphere, the prefrontal cortex, plays a critical role in how the human brain processes emotions. Data from previous studies of brain lesions and data from functional brain imaging studies have delineated the extent of the area involved. However, a recent University of Iowa study is the first to investigate human emotion processing by the right prefrontal cortex at the level of individual brain cells.

Measles and pertussis risk higher for children with personal exemptions from immunization
Children who are exempt from immunization for religious or philosophical reasons have a higher risk of measles and pertussis, according to an article in the December 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

California anti-smoking program may have saved more than 30,000 lives from heart disease, UCSF study shows; cutbacks linked to 8300 excess deaths
An estimated 33,300 heart-disease deaths were prevented during the first nine years of the voter-approved anti- smoking program in California, according to a new report by researchers at UCSF. The report represents the first time that scientists have attributed savings in lives to a tobacco control program.

Tubal sterilization poses no greater risk of menstrual abnormalities, study finds
The largest, most comprehensive study of its kind to date has found that women who have undergone tubal sterilization are at no greater risk for menstrual abnormalities than are women who have not had the procedure, settling a debate within the medical community.

Wood dust, talc, estrogens, and nickel alloys among substances being reviewed for inclusion in Report on Carcinogens
Wood dust produced in furniture and cabinet manufacture, common talc, spectrum ultraviolet light, as well as UVA, UVB, UVC and the flavoring agent methyleugenol, metallic nickel and nickel alloys, trichloroethylene, and two pharmaceutical agents to be reviewed for listing in the next federal Report on Carcinogens.

The hardest working elves in cyberspace
Software agents talk to each other to guide, schedule, keep track of and even make excuses for human researchers in experiment in computer-assisted living.

Untreated depression and hopelessness contribute to a patient's desire to die
Understanding why a terminally-ill patient wishes to die has become a focus for improving end of life care as well as a crucial part of the physician-assisted suicide debate.

Screensavers of the world, unite!
Picture this: millions of iMac and PC owners around the world using their home computers to help scientists solve complex computational problems. It may sound far-fetched, but the concept - known as distributed computing - has become a groundbreaking tool for astronomers, biochemists and other researchers seeking a fast and cheap alternative to expensive supercomputers.

Carbon sequestration: seeing the forest for its trees
A team of researchers working on eucalyptus plantations in Hawaii has discovered an important aspect of how carbon sequestration processes work in tropical tree plantations. The researchers discovered that carbon sequestration was significantly boosted when the composition of tree stands included nitrogen-fixing trees.

Locus on chromosome 10 linked to Alzheimer's
Mayo Clinic researchers moved closer to finding a new gene likely to play a significant role in development of late- onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD). They linked LOAD to a locus on chromosome 10 that affects processing of amyloid ß protein, a peptide important in forming the characteristic Alzheimer's brain plaques.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome may be linked to the presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine
Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center may have identified the cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal condition that afflicts about 20 percent of the adult population and is diagnosed in twice as many women as men. The findings, published in the December issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology, may shed new light on how to treat the symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation associated with IBS.

Depression in later life may be caused by hardened arteries
Some late-life depression is likely to be caused by narrowing and hardening of the brain arteries rather than any chemical or emotional imbalance. Depression is predicted to become the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. It is currently the fourth.

Why are insecurities and risks often erroneously calculated?
Research at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development shows that, to avoid leading to false conclusions, statistical information needs to be communicated better and in a more comprehensible fashion.

With help from the Office of Naval Research, a right whale pied "Piper" shows the way to recovery for this highly endangered species
Thanks to new technology sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, for the first time ever, a female Northern Right Whale has been tracked every step of her journey between northern feeding grounds off New Brunswick, Canada, and southern breeding grounds off the Georgia and Florida coasts.

New $35.5 million center for mind, brain and learning created at UW
A Center for Mind, Brain and Learning to conduct innovative research on early brain and behavorial development has been created at the University of Washington with a $35.5 million pledge.

Save that tiger - Texas A&M vets set first-ever surgery
In a first-of-its kind surgical procedure, surgeons from Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and the Texas Children's Hospital will perform a heart operation to save the life of Karma, a 5-month-old Bengal tiger from the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Tyler, Texas.

Other highlights in the November 5 issue of JNCI
Other highlights of the November 5 issue of JNCI include two studies indicating that factory workers who are routinely exposed to formaldehyde may have an increased risk of certain cancers. A listing of additional studies in the November 5 issue is included in this tipsheet.

DNA research reveals new bird species in Colorado
Neither a tree-dweller nor a night bird, and roughly the size of a chicken, the Gunnison sage-grouse is not a particularly secretive bird yet just recently has it been identified as a new species of bird. The new species is recognized in the December issue of the Wilson Bulletin, which includes a discussion of the genetics research that conclusively proved the species designation.

Researchers find money chief reason for racial differences in mammography
In 1997, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found that black women in eastern North Carolina were only about half as likely as white women to have undergone mammography. Now, a new study conducted by the same investigators shows that money -- and to a lesser degree, the level of formal education women received -- explained the racial differences.

New genetic link for late onset Alzheimer's disease discovered
Mass. General researchers have found a region on human chromosome 10 that could harbor a genetic variant that powerfully predisposes people to develop late onset Alzheimer's disease. They have not yet identified the actual disease-predisposing variant; researchers have evidence it could be more potent than previously discovered risk factors.

Florida scientist finds protein that regulates brain's reaction to injury
A University of Florida researcher is among a team of scientists who have discovered a protein's role in controlling the brain's inflammatory response to injury and disease. The finding may hold significance for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and AIDS-related dementia -- all conditions marked by brain degeneration associated with chronic inflammation.

Simple rules predict the outcome of predator-prey struggles
The balance of predator and prey once seemed so complex that only a supercomputer could predict the outcome. Ecologists at Cornell University and North Carolina State University have developed a simpler mathematical model with which many seemingly complex problems in population dynamics can run on a desktop computer.

New N.C. ferry-linked water monitoring begins generating useful data for analysis
For the first time, marine scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University have begun monitoring surface water quality in the Neuse River with the help of the Neuse River ferry and its N.C. Department of Transportation staff. They expect the effort, called FerryMon, eventually to become a model for ferry-based water quality monitoring throughout the nation.

Finding could lead to new approach for treating severe heart disease
UCSF researchers report that a new approach for delivering the potent growth factor VEGF into mice with coronary heart disease prompted the growth of blood vessels in damaged heart tissue, without causing side effects, offering hope for a treatment strategy for that until now has met with setbacks.

Chemical may deter starfish from devouring endangered coral reefs
Researchers in Japan have discovered a chemical in sea urchins that might be used to lure starfish away from coral reefs, an endangered ecosystem they are devouring at an alarming rate. The finding will be presented at the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies in Honolulu.

Other highlights in the October 15 issue of JNCI
Other highlights of the October 15 issue of JNCI include a study examining risk factors for malignant melanoma, a study on racial differences in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer, a study finding a lack of evidence that SV40 is a prevalent human pathogen, and a study showing no increase in the incidence of childhood leukemia in Nordic countries over the last 20 years.

Ancient origins found in arabidopsis genome
A weedy, inedible member of the mustard family, Arabidopsis thaliana is the first plant to reveal its primordial origins. Cornell researchers found genetic evidence of its emergence between 50 million and 200 million years ago. The work could unlock genetic knowledge of important traits in agricultural crops like corn, tomatoes and wheat.

Newer drugs more helpful in first-time schizophrenia than older medications, study shows
People diagnosed with first-episode schizophrenia may fare much better when treated with newer anti-psychotic drugs than with traditional medications that were first introduced over forty years ago.

Monsanto congratulates scientists behind the Arabidopsis genome sequence
Monsanto Company congratulates the scientists behind today's publication in the journal Nature of the genome sequence of Arabidopsis Thaliana. Monsanto contributed to today's Nature publication via Cereon Genomics, a subsidiary of Monsanto based in Cambridge, Mass.

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